Tackle illiteracy It is not only young people who need to read more. Later on in life too and amongst older groups, reading remains important for the development of language skills. As described in Section 3, there is a large group of people in the Netherlands with low literacy skills. This group also requires special attention and support from the public library, such as special reading materials to bring them in contact with books. Libraries should be able to answer people’s questions or to refer them to other language service providers, special courses or workshops. The library can also act as facilitator, by making space available or renting it out to course or workshop providers, and providing people who attend such courses with the opportunity to practise. The library can also organise special reading activities for the target group, such as library tours, readings or ‘read together’ clubs.
whoever reads this can read
It can also provide training courses for companies, schools and other public organisations to reach more people in and raise awareness of the problems of the target group.77 People who have difficulties with reading and writing are less likely to come to the library themselves, so that the library needs to actively focus on places where poor literacy skills are likely to be noticed. The library therefore needs to join up with partners in welfare and work, such as Job Centres, sheltered workshops, refugee agencies, integration centres and health centres. Provide advice and support for information skills The increasing volume of digital information and media that people need to deal with every day makes more and more demands of people in terms of knowledge, skills and understanding. It will become increasingly important to be able to manage the multitude and complexity of sources correctly. Libraries, as ‘local media skill centres’78, have a particular role to play in contextual information skills. After all, searching, finding, selecting and interpreting information sources and knowing their quality and reliability – the contextual domain – has long been the expertise of libraries. The huge volume of digital information provides an opportunity for libraries to help people order, filter and pre-sort relevant digital content out of the mass of information available, from the high-quality and the hopeless, the inspiring and the manipulating. The library, as an adviser and trustworthy beacon, will help people navigate the world of information overload, and will surprise and inspire people in a world of extreme personalisation and filtered information. It is possible that smart digital search engines will be developed in the coming years that limit or even take over the role of libraries in this area. Libraries therefore need to be flexible and pro-active to be able to respond to new situations.